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Legends of Southern Rock: The Charlie Daniels Band

by Michael Buffalo Smith

The Legends of Southern Rock Series

For decades Charlie Daniels has refused to label his music as anything other than "CDB music," music that helped elect an American president and been popularized on a variety of radio formats.

Charlie Daniels was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. His dad’s work caused Charlie to change schools and cities more often than most. One year he landed in Spartanburg, South Carolina, a city that would one day gain acclaim as the home of The Marshall Tucker Band, Marshall Chapman, and Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle.

Daniels cut an album for Capitol Records in the early '70s which was virtually ignored. In 1972, he formed the Charlie Daniels Band, using the southern rock of the Allman Brothers as a blueprint.

In 1972, Buddha released Charlie's second LP, Te John, Grease & Wolfman, featuring long time band mate Joel "Taz" DiGregorio. On the album Daniels rocks hard with "Great Big Bunches of Love" and on his cover of the Jerry Lee Lewis chestnut, "Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee."

“It wasn’t until our third album that we had our first single, “Uneasy Rider,” says Daniels. “But it was our fifth album, Fire on the Mountain, that really got us started.” By then, Freddie Edwards was playing drums with the band.

In 1974, they released Fire on the Mountain, which became a gold record within months of its release. Thanks to the Top 40 country hit "Texas," the album would eventually go platinum.

Fire On the Mountain carried two other hit singles for the Daniels Band, “Long Haired Country Boy” and “The South’s Gonna Do it Again.” To this day collectors seek out copies of the original vinyl LP that contained a bonus EP from the first-ever Volunteer Jam which featured Toy Caldwell, Artimus Pyle, Richard Betts and a host of other top-notch musicians.

The Charlie Daniels Band 1975

Saddle Tramp, released in 1976, was nearly as successful, going gold, and adding two new band members, Tommy Crain and Charlie Hayward.

“We had other albums out but none of them did that well until Million Mile Reflections came out in 1979,” Daniels told SWAMPLAND.COM.

The single from that album, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” went triple platinum and made Charlie Daniels an international star. The song was named the Country Music Association's Single of the Year and helped its accompanying album, Million Mile Reflections, become a multi-platinum success. Daniels wasn't able to follow "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" with another blockbuster single on the country charts, ironically, but he had several rock crossover successes in the years following the success of Million Mile Reflections.  Full Moon (1980) went platinum and 1982's Windows went gold. Although he continued to sell respectably throughout the '80s, he didn't have another big hit until 1989's Simple Man, which went gold.

In 1993 Charlie Daniels signed with Liberty Records and released his patriotic tribute, "America, I Believe in You." The following year, Daniels released his first gospel album, The Door. For his efforts, Daniels received a Dove Award and a Grammy nomination. His follow-up to that album, Steel Witness, was another inspirational project.


Back 1974, Daniels had heard the debut album by Spartanburg’s Marshall Tucker Band, and soon made fast friends with the group. So much so that Charlie would go on to perform on all of their albums from the second record on. He performed on all of the Capricorn records that Paul Hornsby produced. For some time The Charlie Daniels Band toured alongside The Marshall Tucker Band, carrying the southern banner throughout the world.

“Playing with the MTB was great,” says Charlie. “ It was a natural show. We used to end the night up with three drummers on the stage doing something everybody knew. We probably did more dates with Marshall Tucker than any other band that I know of.”

The year 1974 also saw the beginnings of the almost-annual Volunteer Jam, hosted by Charlie in Nashville and featuring friends from The Winters Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, Bonnie Bramlett, Jimmy Hall and others. Later jams would star such diverse talents as Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, James Brown, Ted Nugent, Roy Acuff, Amy Grant, Alabama and, in 1986, a reunion of The Allman Brothers Band.

By the Spring of 1999, Southern Rock fans throughout the country were happy to attend the first ever Volunteer Jam Tour, featuring Charlie and his band, The Marshall Tucker Band, Hank Williams, Jr. and Molly Hatchet.

Daniels has freely donated his time to numerous charitable causes and events in Nashville and was one of the performers who donated their time at 1997’s fundraising event to erect a monument to bluegrass patriarch Bill Monroe. Every year Charlie heads up a four-day event in Tampa, Florida dubbed “Charliepalooza,” all to benefit the Angelus organization, featuring an all-day country and Southern rock concert and golf tournament. Long-time CDB guitarist Tommy Crain is there every year, recreating the magic he and Charlie delivered on songs like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and sitting in with virtually all if the bands.

Charlie receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush, 2004.

Today, Charlie still tours relentlessly with his band, and makes time for tons of charitable events, all the while looking ahead to the next gig, like the upcoming 2007 Volunteer Jam Tour.

Charlie Daniels has a proven recipe for success. "Believe in what you do. Believe in what you say. The Good Lord will do the rest." That philosophy has served him well, both personally and professionally. In addition to selling over 13 million albums, Charlie and his wife, Hazel, have been happily married for over 30 years.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern!

Michael Buffalo Smith

The Legends of Southern Rock Series

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